Excelsior Springs Champions Aging Well with Community Initiatives

The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has launched the “Communities for All Ages” program, aimed at helping communities assess their suitability for residents across all age groups. The program focuses on six key areas: public outdoor spaces and buildings, housing and commercial development, transportation and mobility, social inclusion and communication, civic participation and employment, and community and health services. This initiative aligns closely with the objectives of the Thrive Excelsior program, ensuring that community improvement efforts are synchronized.

Our community has achieved recognition within this program, achieving the gold level status, indicating a high degree of commitment and implementation of age-friendly practices. This recognition comes at a crucial time as demographic projections indicate a significant increase in the population aged 65 and over, with an expected rise of 25% or more by 2030. Specifically, Clay County in the Kansas City Metro area is anticipated to see a 95.2% increase in its senior population over the next 20 years, highlighting the need for preparedness across various sectors including emergency services, public safety, public works, parks and recreation, health, neighborhoods, and housing.

In response to these challenges, the City Council in 2016 adopted a resolution to collaborate with MARC on this program. At the silver level, the program fosters collaboration between residents and professionals through committees that review the six focus areas to identify strengths and areas for improvement. Advancing to the gold level, our community utilized the Parks and Recreation strategic plan as a foundation for our application, demonstrating a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of all age groups, a strategy that has received considerable praise.

The sustained involvement of the individuals who initiated this partnership in 2016 has been instrumental to the program’s success, according to Laura Mize, City of Excelsior Springs Neighborhood Specialist. This ongoing commitment underscores the community’s dedication to creating an inclusive, accessible, and supportive environment for people of all ages.

Recently Accomplished

Some of the things that the committee has accomplished since 2021 includes a comprehensive survey on residents to find out what they would like to see in parks and recreation amenities. Since then Parks and Recreation has added Movies in the Park, offered competitive level sports, started more tennis camps and an adult program with tournament, the Community Center has offered several dance classes, and the Senior Center is offering a wide variety of activities from arts/crafts to Wii bowling league to musical lessons.

Future Goals

Some of the things the committee is working on include nearly completing a new loop trail at Milwaukee St. Park, resurfacing the Rainbow and East Valley trails, and in addition, the RAISE grant is expected to add new trails and connect existing ones. The department also added a nature scape play feature at Eddie Raper Park. They’ve added Rainbow Splash Park, which is fully inclusive, and will be adding Siloam Spring Park in the near future. The Milwaukee Park is expected to be completed by the time the strategic plan ends.

Technology Assistance

Additionally, Jeff Barge, Senior Center Director, applied for and was awarded a $5,000 grant to provide technology assistance to seniors. Mid-Continent Public Library is working wtih Senior clients to answer questions and provide training on various devices. Community Services League has also offered assistance.

Aging Mastery Program, Good Samaritan Center and the Excelsior Springs Hospital will work to bring the program to the Community Center in the Spring.

Home Repair and Maintenance

There are several resources available to assist local residents with home repair and maintenance. They are constantly searching for ways to raise awareness of these resources which currently include, ESHS Student Council (who has helped with snow removal), Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Rebuilding Together Kansas City, MARC, Clay County Senior Services, Northland Neighbors Incorporated, Excelsior Springs Minor Home Repair Progam, and the Good Samaritan Center.

Social Wellness

When asked what could be done to benefit seniors socially, a resident from The Colony Plaza had the idea to hold a prom for senior citizens. Plans are underway for the Silver Prom to be held on May 4, 2024 at ESHS. ESHS Student Council has taken the lead and the ES Aging Well group will support them to make this event a success.

Downtown Food Desert

The ES Aging Well task force is working to spread the word among downtown residents that there is fresh food available from the Excelsior Springs Farmers Market and through the Good Samaritan Center. They are currently looking for more ways to bring more fresh groceries to the downtown area.

Transportation

When asked what challenges they face, ES Seniors who were polled said they needed transportation to medical appointments and for shopping. That led the aging well committee on a campaign to spread the word about the Excelsior Springs Transportation Department, which offers these services. The Chamber of Commerce is exploring possibilities for additional Saturday shopping services via the Trolley or the City transportation bus. 

Resource Guide

Jeff Barge and City Councilwoman Sonya Morgan came together to create a Senior Resource Guide that is easily reproduced and circulated. It contains three pages of helpful agencies and phone numbers that many City offices are now using to direct residents.

Excelsior Springs Aging Well meets every third Wednesday at 2:00pm, bringing together local professional and residents who are passionate about the wellbeing of their older neighbors. Local partners include City of Excelsior Springs, Excelsior Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Community Services League, Excelsior Springs Parks and Recreation, KCare Homecare, Excelsior Springs Senior Center, Mid-Continent Public Library of Excelsior Springs, Designs by Ash, LLC, The Good Samaritan Center, Senior Life Solutions, Excelsior Springs Hospital, and Colony Plaza.

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